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UI energy goals loom

BY LAUREN MILLS | DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:30 AM

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The UI is, for the most part, on track to meet sustainability goals set three years ago.

The Energy Conservation and Management Strategic Plan, which could save the university from $3.5 million to $4 million, includes decreasing energy use by 10 percent and increasing the amount of renewable energy by approximately 15 percent. The deadline for the plan is this fiscal year.

Although officials said the 2008 flood and problems with equipment in the north chilled-water plant have made meeting the goals difficult, it is possible that the university will finish on target.

“We definitely won’t overachieve,” said Glen Mowery, the director of utilities and energy management for UI Facilities Management. “What is most important is not so much that we hit the number but that we are trending in the right direction.”

The plan originally had a 2013 deadline, but in an Earth Day speech in 2008, President Sally Mason announced that the date would be moved up to 2010.

“We started out with an aggressive plan, and then it became more aggressive,” Mowery said, noting that the targets are made more challenging because certain areas, such as research buildings, require controlled environments that makes energy regulation difficult.

Dorms can also pose problems.

“We try to promote energy conservation in the dorms, but it is hard to enforce,” Mowery said. “You can walk around Hillcrest today and see 20 windows cracked open because it is too hot in the room.”
Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability, said her office and the President’s Office recently sent e-mails to students and faculty asking them to “power down” over winter break by turning down the heat and pulling the plug on appliances. According to the message sent by the sustainability office, the weeklong Thanksgiving break resulted in savings of approximately $18,000.

“There are important behavioral components where we do, as people, need to take a certain responsibility for our energy use,” Christiansen said. “We want to promote an understanding that people can carry on beyond their experience here into their houses and apartments.”

Mowery said he did not know of any new strategic plans, but he hoped to continue shrinking the campus energy bill and environmental footprint.

“We should get a new plan whether we make it to the goal or not,” he said. “I would be disappointed if we didn’t get a new one.”

He also stressed the utilization of energy plans as a part of the budget-cutting efforts that won’t affect paychecks or the services available to students.

“When you make cuts in energy, that is money you save right now,” Christiansen said. “You continue to save that money for months, for years.”

Ferman Milster, the Facilities Management associate director in charge of the Power Plant, said he hoped to see a future plan that focuses on the university’s sources of electricity.

“We produce less than half of our peak load,” he said. “This makes us vulnerable to external conditions. It takes our destiny out of our hands. Coal may have a limited future, but I would like to see more renewables and other technology.”


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